Monday, January 7, 2019


Jason Momoa, late of Baywatch and Stargate: Atlantis, debuted as Aquaman in last year's Justice League. He seemed to be right for the role, and this film confirmed it while earning the dubious distinction of sucking less than the previous handful of Marvel and DC movies. I really quite enjoyed most of it, and a lot of its imagery sticks in my head. There are some gorgeous fantasy-world vistas under the ocean, terrific creatures, rip-roaring fight scenes and, of course, the unreconstructed masculinity of Jason Momoa to deal with. When he cracks a smile, or at least smiles with his eyes, he goes the distance that Black Panther never can (i.e., showing even the slightest evidence of a sense of humor). He takes a serious beating and keeps going. He breathes air and water, whichever is most convenient at the time. He bridges two seemingly unbridgeable worlds, and steps up to protect the one (above the waves) against the other (deep below). He holds the screen against such acting powerhouses as Willem Dafoe and Nicole Kidman, not to mention the voices of Julie Andrews, John Rhys-Davies and Djimon Hounsou, perhaps more by an excess of charisma than by qualitative acting ability. He also gets to play around with such stars as Amber Heard (Zombieland, Pineapple Express), Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Insidious), Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Johnny Mnemonic) and Michael Beach (Third Watch). He battles a high-tech villain named Manta, challenges his own half-brother for the throne of a powerful underwater nation, survives attacks by swarms of creatures that amply illustrate how savage sea life can be, and succeeds in a quest to recover the McGuffin that entitles him to command everything that swims in saltwater. It would really be awesome if... if... well, if 40 percent of it wasn't so obviously computer-animated.

Tip: We're not as dumb as we look. Movie audiences can still tell whether we're watching something shot with live action, with lots of special effects layered on, or something entirely conjured inside a computer. And stuff entirely conjured in a computer just isn't as interesting to watch. Massive swarms of characters moving within a huge canvas just isn't that much fun to see. Epic battles stop feeling epic after less time than you think. Take note, DC Studios. Put everything that had live action in it on one side of the scales, and everything that had CGI in the other side, and I don't know how it balances out frame-for-frame but in terms of entertainment vs. boredom, this whole movie was pretty much a wash. Sorry! And I mean it. Because if you took some of that battle extravaganza out, I actually think this would be a more watchable movie with the added attraction of not being quite so trying on my 46-year-old bladder.

Also, Manta could have stood to be a more serious threat. Really, having two different boss conflicts going on in the story is probably what ultimately hurts this movie the most.

Three scenes that made it for me: (1) Arthur Curry's (Aquaman) battle with Black Manta in Sicily, complete with rooftop-running exploits, explosions, real estate damage and serious injuries on both sides. (2) The Sahara desert interlude, including an interesting way to exit an airplane and a Raiders of the Lost Ark moment in an abandoned, underground city. (3) The flashback scenes in which Dafoe trains a younger Arthur to give him a fighting chance to claim his destiny under the sea.

I'm not guaranteeing that I'll see a sequel to this, if there is one. I make no promises that I will faithfully follow any film franchise that runs to multiple numbers. Sometimes I tune in; many times I don't. I would, however, be interested in an Aquaman sequel if there was credible buzz about it improving on the deficiencies noted above.

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